Few long term EDM (electronic dance music) fans can claim not to be familiar with A Guy Called Gerald (AGCG)–and for good reason. He’s been making funky and genre-defining dance music since the mid- to late 1980s. Before making dance music history with this release, Gerald Simpson made abstract and futuristic acid house as the creative lead behind 808 State. After the success of “Voodoo Ray” and his split with the band (a detailed and interesting account of those times can be found here), Simpson embarked on a solo career, forging ahead as one of the originators of the style that would come to be called Drum’n’Bass, years before this innovative genre gained mainstream exposure.
After a hiatus of about six years, AGCG is back on track with some great new and once again original and genre defining–and defying–releases. After his recent album-length project on Studio !K7, Gerald has released an understated single on his own new label–Sugoi Recordings–in 2005. He followed that ep in 2006 with a more straightforward album from a live session from December of 2005, which includes strong cuts regardless of attempts at trying to pigeonhole them into a single genre–as is all too often done.
A May 2007 twelve inch release consists of two extended tracks from the Berlin Sessions album. “Voltar” is vaguely reminiscent of the same ephemeral quality as “Pacific State”–a track AGCG made toward the very end of his stint with 808 State–backed by a more pronounced beat than the summery almost-anthem. The ethereal synth pads and that almost unforgettable bassline of “Pacific State” are replaced on “Voltar” with exotically rhythmic bird chirps, while the bassline is carried by a syncopated sub-bass pattern that leaves one wondering what (if anything) inspires the dozens of present-day producers to make music, since the bass and overall composition of “Voltar” is as futuristic and original sounding as anything I’ve heard described as “cutting edge” or “unlike anything that’s been done before”. This record’s merits don’t end there, however, as Gerald treats all of the melodic and deep-tech heads to a B-side treat that is “Sweet You”. Carried along by a jazzy, subtle brush rhythm and augmented by a beautiful melody that’s more emotive than the majority of releases labeled “techno” nowadays, this flipside track evokes the moodiness and beauty of the best Detroit Techno releases–think Derrick May’s “Icon” or “The Dance”, U.R.’s “The Theory”, or the melody on the second half of Theo Parrish’s “Dark Patterns”. However, “Sweet You” effortlessly holds its own in the company of these esteemed releases.
Now, as quite a few EDM fans nowadays may be missing the point of it, or simply aren’t aware of or don’t understand the cultural/musical context of the vast style that is Detroit Techno–or Chicago House for that matter–Gerald Simpson also released an excellent track that can very comfortably sit along–not to mention head and shoulders above–the majority of releases in the current catch-all style definition of the present day–“minimal”, or “mnml” to emphasize the sparse–if not to say lacking–presence of originality or compositional depth of this vague stylistic description. “Bodecka” offers a wide variety of compositional elements that elude immediate categorization (if such is even necessary). The visceral bass that underpins the track recalls the rolling bass sequences that were the seductive compliment to the oft-sampled Amen break in many drum’n’bass tracks, while the track morphs through elements of dub (the elusive echo that weaves in and out of the track), soul (the vocal snippets), and is complimented by the fitting, flammed 4/4 beat that sounds almost slightly unquantized–to great effect.
Gerald Simpson’s recent releases have gained even more contextual strength by his strong live performances during this year’s DEMF weekend. His live show featured abstract and almost experimental-sounding moments reminiscent of his early compositions made during his 808 State days, alongside extremely complex, raw, and almost foot breaking (for the dancers) drum’n’bass rhythms. If that wasn’t enough for fans that prefer AGCG’s earliest musical output, his broken rendition of the seminal “Voodoo Ray” has morphed into a slightly updated four-to-the-floor version of the track during the latter part of his performance, followed by what were either his own edits of obscure disco tracks, or new constructions altogether that could be classified as either disco or funk, depending on how one would describe each style. To please old and new fan alike, Gerald also incorporated the vocal from this acid house staple throughout his performance.
AGCG’s live show in Detroit was a pleasant, refreshing and visceral reminder of the importance of genre diversification during live EDM performances or DJ sets, and even further proof that musical acumen does not come right out of the box with a copy of _______(fill in the name of currently hot music-making software), but is acquired and perfected over time… If one considers what was a very evident dose of paying homage to EDM’s musical roots in Gerald’s live set in Detroit (and all if not most of his productions), then it will be easy to see the self-evident fact that drawing upon a very rich musical heritage as Gerald does is a huge benefit to the dancer and listener alike.